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Secrets To A Better SEMA Show by Scott Alan Carpenter / ScoCar

The following are tips we’ve prepared after attending the SEMA show for over 10-years. Much of the information contained here may seem pretty basic. Yet, you would be surprised how much smoother the SEMA show will go by just following the basics. First and foremost, the SEMA show is many things to many people. It is the largest show of it’s kind in the world. The SEMA show is your one opportunity during a year to showcase your company and products to the world. The main things to remember are that the SEMA show is just that, a show. Have fun, don’t panic and above all else be positive. Minor things may not go as planned but please don’t sweat the small stuff. Always look for the silver lining in everything that goes right or wrong at the show. Trust us, its there. If you do, you’ll have a much more productive and less stressful show.

1. Exhibitor Service Manual - Bring this manual and copies of all completed paper work including move in/move out dates, labor agreements, freight agreements, electrical agreements, booth space agreement, etc. The person who is responsible for the booth needs to keep this accessible at the booth AT ALL TIMES DURING SHOW HOURS.

2. Wear Comfortable Shoes - The SEMA show has over 6,000,000 square feet and requires a lot of walking. We highly recommend walking shoes like Rockport Pro Walkers, Florsheim Comfortech or comparable walking shoes. Always choose the plushest carpet with double thick padding for your booth to minimize severely bruised feet. Also, if the shoes are newer, wear thicker socks or apply bandages or heel protectors to the heels before each day of the show to prevent blistering.

3. Uniform Dress Code - All employees in your booth should wear shirts of the same color for a consistent, professional look.

4. Booth Materials - Bring a minimum of 500 catalogs and business cards. Insert them into freestanding plastic display stands, which are available at the SEMA Show Expo Center, Office Depot, Office Max, and Staples or from your exhibit management company. Apply Velcro to the bottom of the display to your counter top to prevent movement. Also, consider bringing a few copies of your warranty, terms and conditions of sales, and dealer applications. Media requests (for news releases, advertising or media CD-ROMS can be directed to ScoCar if ScoCar is your agency of record).

5. Exhibitor Display Rules - To recap, DO NOT plug in anything electrical yourself. To do so is a booth violation and fine if they catch you. Plugging in a vacuum cleaner before the show starts is usually a general exception to the rule.

6. Time - The show opens at 9:00AM Tuesday through Friday. People will start asking questions right away until close at 5:00 (PM). The person in charge of the booth needs keys to the booth and should arrive 30-45 minutes early for simple cleaning and to ensure catalogs, business cards, decals, etc. are out and displayed. You will want to make sure that your booth personnel do not stay out all night gambling, etc. Otherwise, it can make it very difficult for them arrive be productive, mentally sharp, and/or even make it to your booth.

7. Lunch Breaks - Alternate lunch breaks between 11:00AM and 1:00PM with your personnel. Two people should be in the booth at all times. Traffic will be particularly heavy Tuesday and Wednesday and without a plan, no one will have time for a lunch break. This is especially important if someone on your staff is Diabetic or Hypoglycemic. If a perdium is allowed, provide this to your employees prior to or during the show.

8. Show Planner - This powerful tool allows you to make a list of exhibitors you want to visit, keep notes, view the floor plan, add special events/seminars/meetings to your personal itinerary. This should save you a lot of time and stress.

9. SEMA Directory - The official SEMA show directory (a free must have comprehensive reference guide and contact list of all exhibiting companies) will be available late Monday/early Tuesday at the front entrance of the convention center. Make sure you get a copy early before they are gone.

10. Sales Training - Ensure all people in the booth can answer the following questions:

1.     How much is the dealer buy-in amount? In dollars or # of units

2.     Do you have show special pricing? 10% off all orders placed by January 31st is a great place to start.

3.     What is the jobber, WD and retail price? Jobber is typically 15%-25% off of retail. WD (warehouse distributor) pricing should only be given out after the show to qualified warehouse distributors.

4.     What are your lead times for shipping?

5.     What is you warranty and return policy?

6.     When will your items be shipping?

7.     What do the items on display in your booth include in kit form?

8.     How long does it take for installation?

9.     What tools are needed for installation?

10.   Tell me about the car at the Grand Lobby Plaza?

11.   Who’s car is better, yours or your competitors?

12.   Why should I buy hour components instead of your competitors?

NOTE: NEVER slam the competition. Say something like, “they make a good product but here is why we are unique and different.” Make sure your sales force reads the brochure inside and out and knows the web site addresses.

IMPORANT: Be prepared for some very technically savvy, engineer types to ask you questions that a regular staffer might not be able to answer instantaneously Make sure if your sales force does not know the answer to a question that they do not make something up or try to B.S. there way out of the questions! Trust us, someone will ask a question that one of your personnel does not know the answer to. Instead, have them say something like, "I am not sure, let me check on that and I'll be right back." If the answer cannot be made immediately because you are not in the booth and no one else knows, have your sales force ask for their business card and write the question on the back. This saves the customer valuable time and shows sincerity on your part in trying to answer their question. These cards need to be given to you and answered promptly after the show.

Be aware that many people who are not manufacturers, buyers, or media reps will be stopping by and asking questions. They are able to get in because they are a friend of a friend who has a cousin dating a sister who's dad owns a repair shop and got them a ticket under the repair shop name.

It would be best if you and your staff assumed they are members of some newsgroup, forums, blogger or some other club. THEY WILL post the answers your staff gives them on your product on their newsgroup the same day or that evening. Remember, they are all enthusiasts; many are engineers or engineer wannabees and THEY ALL TALK. Internet based newsgroups; forums, blogs, etc. are the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports of the 21st century all rolled into one. Remember, all it takes is one upset customer from a newsgroup and the rest of the members are likely to avoid your company and its products like the plague (regardless if your products are better or not). Therefore, anyone who says they are a member of or associated with an online newsgroup should be directed to you and you only UNLESS your staff is as technically savvy as you are. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to have your staff ask if they are members of any online newsgroups, forums, blogs, etc. When the customer asks why, you can tell them you may give them a group purchase discount price after the show. This way, it looks like your helping them out and you can head potential problems off in the beginning. I know this may sound like highway robbery (sometimes it is) however, it is now a part of every business and you will have to come to terms with it.

11. Competitive Intelligence - We recommend having someone stop by and pick up a brochure with jobber pricing. Also check out.

You won’t have a better chance than the SEMA show to shop your competition. DO NOT turn your badge around when entering the competitions’ booth. Just be honest and up front.

12. Situation Diffusal - If any customers, suppliers, attendees or booth personnel should become upset and argumentative, remain calm and diffuse the situation as fast as possible. Point out to the person(s) that this is a show and not the appropriate place for this discussion in a low, calm voice. If they persist, ask them to leave the booth. If they still persist, contact Convention Center security. Attendees and retail customers (Friday is retail day) will have cameras/video recorders. This is allowed per the rules of the show so don't let this alarm you.

13. Be Prepared for the Dry Climate - Las Vegas is about probably driest city in the U.S. It is commonly referred to as the "nose bleed capital of the world". Plus, the first week in November is severe allergy time. We highly recommend bringing lip balm, skin moisturizer, nasal moisturizer (like Pretz and and lots of bottled water). We also recommend portable humidifiers and plug in Sudacare plug in compact vapor inhaler in hotel rooms. All are available at Walgreens ( Many are open 24 hours and this will become very helpful.

Be especially prepared for nosebleeds, as it is VERY typical at this particular show. Apply Pretz at least hourly to the nasal membranes to keep them moist to help prevent nosebleeds. If a nosebleed should occur, my ear, nose, throat doctor recommends drenching a nosebleed with regular Afrin (available from most pharmacies) until the blood stop running. Then, squeeze the nostrils with the thumb and index finger for 5-10 minutes. The Convention Center has a staff of nurses that can provide additional help with plastic nose clamps and instant dry ice packs for the back of the neck. Please note any medical advice provided is based on personal experiences over the past 10 years. You should seek additional medical advice from a qualified medical doctor.

14. Tools & Equipment – If you have a large and/or intricate booth that requires a lot of assembly and you are not using an exhibit management company, consider bringing the following:

  • Basic set of tools (American & Metric) with standard & deep sockets, open end wrenches

  • Basic set of Phillips & flat blade screwdrivers

  • Box cutters w/spare blades

  • Bungee cords

  • C-clamp (small & large)

  • Large cable ties (2 or 3 dozen)

  • Cell phone charger(s)

  • Chair (folding, 2)

  • Cleaners (Windex & Goo Gone adhesive remover)

  • Cordless drill w/charger

  • Display storage (desiccate packets, large clear storage bags)

  • Fasteners (variety of nuts & bolts to fit display items)

  • First aid kit

  • Flashlight and spare batteries

  • Hammer

  • Hole punch (3-hole)

  • Ice chest

  • Jewelry repair screwdriver set

  • Nails (short & long, wood & sheet metal)

  • Pens (red & blue Ink)

  • Polish or wax

  • Pliers (needle nose)

  • Ruler

  • Sand Paper (fine & coarse)

  • Scissors

  • Sharpees (red & black)

  • Shipping labels (in SEMA Exhibitor Manual)

  • Shipping account Numbers (FedEx, UPS and Truck Freight)

  • Shrink wrap (several roles for protecting display crates for shipping)

  • Signage (booth)

  • Silicone

  • Stapler & spare staples

  • Tape (carpet, double stick, electrical, masking, shipping)

  • Tape guns (2)

  • Tape measure (25')

  • Towels (terry cloth & paper)

  • Trashcan with liners

  • Vacuum w/spare bags and belts (unless you are opting for booth cleaning service via your exhibit company)

  • Velcro wire ties, strips & dots (available at Lowes or your exhibit company)

  • White out

  • Wire cutters

15. Travel - Bring your travel itinerary with you and bring a list of what is and is not acceptable at airports. See

The tools above will have to be shipped in advance to your hotel room or to your booth. Chemicals will need to be purchased locally in Las Vegas as most are considered restricted items that are not shippable.